SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- Jerry Tarkanian's first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years was the shortest of his career as eighth-seeded Wisconsin used a long-range assault to defeat No. 9 Fresno State, 66-56, in a West Region first-round game.
Jon Bryant drilled seven 3-pointers, including four straight to cap a decisive second-half run, and scored 21 points for the Badgers (19-13). Wisconsin also got a stellar defensive effort from Mike Kelley, who had six steals while holding Courtney Alexander -- the nation's leading scorer -- to 11 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
"Our defensive effort picked up in the second half. Some of the other guys decided to join Mike and make that kind of effort," Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett said. "On the other end, Jon simply destroyed that zone from the left side." Making its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, Wisconsin will face top-seeded Arizona in Saturday's second round. The Badgers were beaten in the first round of last year's tournament by Southwest Missouri State, 43-32.
"It feels great," said Wisconsin forward Andy Kowske. "After what happened last year, only scoring 32 points and losing in the first round, we've had that on our backs all year. Believe me, this is a great feeling to come back after what happened last year." Fresno State (24-10), the Western Athletic Conference champion, had a nine-point lead early in the second half and was ahead 44-38 before the Badgers took over.
Bryant's fourth straight 3-pointer capped a 23-2 burst and gave Wisconsin a 61-46 lead with 4 1/2 minutes to play.
Terrance Roberson scored 19 points to lead the Bulldogs, who had an eight-game winning streak stopped. Tarkanian was 16-0 in first-round NCAA Tournament games, coaching Nevada-Las Vegas to the 1990 national championship.
"I really don't have many answers," Tarkanian said. "We had things going so well. We shot well in the first half, we got up to a seven-point lead, we had things going pretty good. And then it seemed like we died after that." The Badgers' assault from behind the arc began before Melvin Ely's basket gave Fresno State a 44-38 cushion with 13:17 remaining. Duany Duany connected from long range just over a minute later to start a 14-0 run that included three baskets by Kowske and a 3-pointer by Bryant that gave Wisconsin a 52-44 cushion.
Alexander halted the run with a jumper for the Bulldogs, but Bryant -- a reserve who averaged just over seven points a game during the season -- made three more 3-pointers to build the Badgers' advantage to 61-46 with 4:31 to play.
"I guess I couldn't have asked for anything more than that," Bryant said. "I hit some shots. It's probably the biggest game I've played in as far as how I've played. And hopefully it will carry into Saturday." Fresno State got no closer than 12 points thereafter, making 10-of-25 shots in the second half after shooting nearly 61 percent in the first (14-of-23).
"We lost our focus, we lost our intensity," Alexander said. "It's kind of hard to pinpoint just one thing.
"I make no excuses when I played bad or if I play good; I make no excuses. I missed some tough shots that normally go in. I just don't know." The first half featured seven ties before Alexander hit a jumper and Ely made two free throws, enabling the Bulldogs to take a 34-30 lead into the locker room.
Kowske contributed 14 points and 14 rebounds and Duany added 12 points off the bench for Wisconsin, which shot under 40 percent (25-of-63) but was 12-of-29 from 3-point range. The Badgers had a 37-29 rebounding edge and committed only eight turnovers while scoring 17 points off 17 Fresno State miscues.